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2011 Tour de France to celebrate the Alps

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The Passage au Gois was critical in the 1999 Tour de France.

The Passage au Gois was critical in the 1999 Tour de France.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) celebrates his third Tour win

Alberto Contador (Astana) celebrates his third Tour win
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Col du Galibier dwarfed the riders

The Col du Galibier dwarfed the riders
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

You can find our complete 2011 Tour de France coverage here.

Following the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the first ever mountain stage in the Pyrenees in this year's Tour de France, the 2011 edition of the race is set to celebrate the Alps, covering legendary climbs such as the Col du Galibier and L'Alpe dHuez.

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has already revealed that the Grand Depart of the 2011 race will be held in the Vendee region of France on the west coast.

The opening stage on Saturday July 2 will be a 180km road race stage instead of the more traditional time trial prologue. The stage will start on the island of Ile de Noirmoutie and ride across the Passage du Gois, the causeway which cuts across the bay during low tide. However the riders need not fear a repeat of the 1999 Tour, when Alex Zulle crashed on the slippy road and lost any chance of challenging Lance Armstrong. In 2011 the peloton will parade across the Passage du Gois before the official start of the stage.

Prudhomme has hinted the stage will be suit both the sprinters and attackers and is likely to finish on the short Mont des Alouettes climb near Les Herbiers. Stage two will be a 23km team time trial around the village of Essarts, while stage three will start in Olonne-su-Mer.

Decided in the Alps

The Tour will visit the Pyrenees in 2011 but only briefly before heading east to the Alps for the decisive stages in the third week. The Tour will end in Paris on Sunday July 24.

In 1911, following the success of the mountain stages in the Pyrenees, race director Henri Desgrange included stages in the Alps and the 2556m high Col du Galibier.

According to information published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, the 2011 Tour de France will climb the Galibier again and technical director Jean-Francois Pescheux also hinted there would be a stage finish at L'Alpe d'Huez.

In 2009 the Tour's final mountain stage finished at the summit of Mont Ventoux and at the summit of the Tourmalet this year. The 2011 Tour de France could decided with a finish at the summit of the Galibier or perhaps at L'Alpe d'Huez.

Alberto Contador will be looking for his fourth Tour de France victory in 2011 after winning this year.